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Monteverdi's Orfeo

Jean-Claude MalgoireFrom Christian Merlin's article (Culture sans pédanterie, October 22) for Le Figaro:

Jean-Claude Malgoire speaks Monteverdi's language fluently. As much as, in music as measured as that of Mozart or Handel, his sense of improvisation is sometimes lacking, his flexibility is ideally suited to theatrical music of the 1600s. Seated in the midst of the players, he reacts with gestures to invite his continuo to follow the textual inflections in real time. This gives the performance a freedom to which classical musicians are not always accustomed but which is the most important thing in Monteverdi's music.

Unlike the one he produced with Nicolas Rivenq, the Orfeo just presented by the Atelier Lyrique de Tourcoing [in the Théâtre Municipal de Tourcoing on October 15, 17, and 19] (after the Carré Saint-Vincent d'Orléans [October 12]) is Malgoire's through and through. In effect, the conductor himself has taken charge of the staging, and if he is not Patrice Patrice Chéreau, he mostly does it as well as others who claim to be stage directors. By artistic means he has conceived a theater of arches, very Latin in spirit. If we miss a real choreography, the costumes, colors, and lights are particularly successful, matching the dramaturgical nature of the work.

And if someone familiar with Orfeo has the impression of seeing certain scenes for the first time, it is not because the conductor has unearthed a new version of the score, but only because he shows us things the music does not always tell us! For example, those Furies who lacerate Orfeo, creating an unexpected parallel with the final dance, with percussion probably not as fast as that. A cultured but not pedantic staging, in the image of its creator.

In the intimidating title role, the South African tenor Kobie van Rensburg shows off a clear and well-colored voice, as well as above-average endurance and style, even if there have been more striking renditions. Although uneven, the casting formed a homogenous team, where Philippe Jaroussky, despite his young age, already seemed like a guest star: a nice display of loyalty to him with whom he learned his craft.
Malgoire was conducting La Grande Ecurie et la Chambre du Roy. The original text of the article has disappeared into the archives, but you can see it cached here.

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